Microtransactions: Are they really a problem?
Microtransactions are fine right now, but the future could be very grim if shareholders and the bottom-line come into play.
Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for some reading on the subject of microtransactions, I highly recommend checking out Jim Sterling’s rebuttal to Cliffy B’s piece (which SincereSuperman uses as a source for this article) and Ben Kuchera’s recent editorial about EA’s current financial state. Whether you agree with one side or the other, it’s always best to read up on both sides to gain perspective.
Recently, Electronic Arts' CFO Blake Jorgensen had this to say about microtransactions and customer satisfaction:
"We are building into all of our games the ability to pay for things along the way; to get to a higher level, to buy a new characters; to buy a truck or gun or whatever it might be," Jorgensen said. "And consumers are enjoying and embracing that way of business."
Both Mass Effect 3 and Dead Space 3 incorporate microtransactions in some form. It appears to be working, because, like he said, they are building the option into all of their games.
Cliff Bleszinski (Cliffy B), who recently left the gaming industry, spoke out against the gaming community in defense of EA and their business practices:
"I'm going to come right out and say it. I'm tired of EA being seen as "the bad guy." I think it's *** that EA has the "scumbag EA" memes on Reddit and that Good Guy Valve can Do No Wrong. Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge fan of Gabe and co most everything they do. (Remember, I bought that custom portal turret that took over the internet a while back and I have friends over there.) However, it blows my mind that somehow gamers don't seem to get that Valve is a business, just like any other, and when Valve charges $100 for an engagement ring in Team Fortress 2 it's somehow "cool" yet when EA wants to sell something similar it's seen as "evil." Yes, guys, I hate to break it to you, as awesome as Valve is they're also a company that seeks to make as much money as possible. They're just way better at their image control."
I don't particularly care for Cliff or his games, but I have to agree with him here. What sets Valve apart from EA? The fact that they're quirky?
It's quite clear to me that both EA and Valve care about their customers. They ARE businesses in the gaming INDUSTRY, so they are trying to make as much money as possible in the most efficient way while keeping their customers satisfied. That's the ideal every good capitalistic company strives for.
So let's get to the meat of the debate. Are microtransactions damaging to the gaming industry at the moment?
The answer is no.
Let's continue to look at EA as an example. Mass Effect 3 uses microtransactions. However, you are never required to purchase them and the multiplayer never feels cheap or undervalued if you don't spend money. The single player doesn't include microtransactions at all. Truth be told, I actually like the way EA and Bioware handled microtransactions in Mass Effect 3.
Now, let's take a look at Dead Space 3. The microtransactions in this game are more disruptive. They intrude on the single player. Does this throw the game out of balance? No. In fact, Dead Space 3 is rather easy compared to its predecessors, even without purchasing any of the microtransactions. You never have to look at the microtransactions to enjoy the full game. I think refusing to purchase this game on the grounds that it includes microtransactions is an immature response, assuming that is the only reason. But, it is your money and you are free to spend it how you like. My advice: don't spend money on the microtransactions. Just the game. Show them what you're willing to pay for. I don't like the fact that microtransactions are in the game, so I haven't bought any.
So, like I said, as it stands now microtransactions are not a problem. I don't like seeing them, but it's not about what I like. If people are willing to pay for them, we will be seeing more of them. That's the truth of the matter.
I do foresee a potential issue with microtransactions in full $60+ games.
What will stop publishers from throwing off game balance and forcing customers to buy the microtransactions if they want to stand any chance against their richer or more hardcore brethren?
Other than customer dissatisfaction, nothing.
We've seen it most recently with Square Enix's abysmal puke-fest, Final Fantasy: All the Bravest. Release a game with the name "Final Fantasy" and people will buy it, regardless. That's a shitty, messed up mentality that should be uprooted like a weed and thrown into a fire. Square Enix should be ashamed for releasing such a blatant cash grab. Literally. We should shame them for it. Write letters, send emails, make phone calls...etc. Refuse to buy the game and then tell them that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. Like a dog, wag your finger and tell them no. Bad Square. Go back to making ground-breaking, genre-defining games worthy of our money. Don't tarnish a brand name for the sake of a quick buck. It's disgusting.
Ranting aside, EA and Activision have actually been pretty tame when it comes to this stuff. Sure, they both publish some filth, but mostly, they publish strong and diverse titles. Mass Effect 3, Dead Space 3, and Crysis 3 were all published by EA and are all well made games.
Capcom, on the other hand, is one of the worst. DLC costumes. DLC stages. DLC characters. DLC dick. I shouldn't be surprised, though, because Capcom has always been this way. Just look at all the Super Nintendo Street Fighter games. DLC before DLC existed. Heck, at least you don't have to purchase another game to unlock everything! DLC fixed that, right?...oh wait...Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 *cough cough*.
Bioware is guilty with Dragon Age: Origins. There is NOTHING that drags me out of an experience more than to have an NPC I talk to say "Want to help me take this castle back? $14.99 will do!" Or something to that effect. Take that shit and put it in a menu somewhere. Don't put it into the game! This is a role-playing game! I'm playing a ROLE. I don't want my experience to be marred by the real world. That said, the DLC is fine on its own. I just don't want it in the game UNTIL I purchase it.
Assassin's Creed II was kind of similar. There were chapters missing from the original game. To fill in those chapters, you had to buy the DLC. The way the DLC was presented made the game feel incomplete. Once again, I didn't have a problem with the DLC itself, just the way it was presented to me.
Anyway, I don't want this to turn into a full-on DLC debate, but I wanted to stress that there are game companies which could use in game mictransactions badly, like Capcom. We, as gamers, need to prevent this. I'm not saying to boycott the game (especially if it's a game you really want to play), but DO NOT purchase the microtransactions or DLC if you do not want them in future games. If you purchase them, the publishers will think that you want more of them.
All in all, I have to say that I don't like microtransactions. I like the feeling that I'm playing a completed game. Microtransactions are not bad right now. They're tolerable, and I don't think publishers are in the wrong to include them, especially when people are willing to pay for them. However, we must prevent them from becoming worse, like Final Fantasy: All the Bravest (refuse to purchase that game because it sucks anyway, microtransactions or not). Refuse to purchase any microtransactions you don't approve of, and make sure to write, email, and call the publishers of the games you want to keep them out of. Be proactive and speak with your wallets.
That's mostly all I wanted to say g1s. Thoughts?